Citizen Ruth

Tucson Weekly

DIRECTED BY: Alexander Payne

REVIEWED: 06-12-97

A comedy about abortion? For that alone, Citizen Ruth deserves high marks--if you believe one role of popular art is to tackle the issues of our times. If you don't, you probably won't be interested in Citizen Ruth, which careens between stereotypes of doughy, suburban Baby Savers on a crusade for God, and militant, lesbian moon-goddess worshippers intent on keeping feminist slogan-slinging alive. Caught in the middle is the stereotypical Ruth, a paint-huffing white trash nowhere girl who becomes the unwitting poster child of both camps. Laura Dern plays Ruth, an uncompromisingly honest loser who becomes the center of public spectacle when a judge quietly suggests she can reduce her sentence if she decides to "take care of her situation" while in jail. Some of the satire is scathingly apropos to our media-crazed, capitalistic culture--such as the bidding war that ensues to win Ruth's allegiance--but even the equal-opportunity-offender approach seemed to wear thin early on, seeming more clichéd than cutting. Still, when was the last time a spirited debate about abortion was fair game for a few good laughs? It may not be a perfect comedy, but at least it's a comparatively intelligent one...and long, long overdue. (The movie opened more than a year ago in New York.)

--Mari Wadsworth

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